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Lena Epstein, who is running for the Michigan Republican nomination for U.S. Senate next year, on Wednesday issued a challenge to retired Michigan Supreme Court Justice Robert Young Jr. before he’s even officially entered the race.

Epstein said she “unapologetically” supports President Donald Trump, would work toward building a security wall along the U.S. border with Mexico and would eliminate funding for sanctuary cities that refuse to help the federal government enforce immigration laws.

“I challenge Justice Young to clarify where he stands on these critical issues,” Epstein said in a statement announcing a new online ad.

Young is expected to announce his candidacy for the Senate in the coming weeks but hasn’t officially declared.

Young confirmed his intent to seek the GOP nomination while speaking Monday at a Republican fundraiser in Mount Pleasant, said Judy Rapanos, chairwoman of the Fourth District Republicans.

He would join Epstein, who co-chaired Trump’s Michigan campaign, in the GOP contest to challenge Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Lansing, who is seeking a fourth term.

Peters visited forces abroad

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, returned this week from a visit to Lithuania and Latvia, where he met with officials of the U.S. European Command.

Peters also met with members of Michigan’s National Guard participating in a joint military exercise with more than a dozen North Atlantic Treaty Organization member nations. U.S. troops are deployed in the Baltic region to help deter potential Russian military aggression along the border there.

Peters said he heard from officials in both border nations about the “daily” threats they face from Russia.

“Our NATO allies in Eastern Europe sit on the front lines of Russian aggression, and it is critical that the United States sends an unequivocal message that we will stand united against any threats to our interests and security,” Peter said in a statement.

“I am extremely proud that Michigan’s National Guardsmen are such a critical part of the United States and NATO defenses, and I was honored to personally thank them for their service.”

Michigan’s National Guard has worked with Latvia’s military for more than two decades through the State Partnership Program. As part of this partnership, the Latvian military also participates in a training called Operation Northern Strike in Northern Michigan.

Peters’ trip included a visit to the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence in Riga, where he learned about Russian propaganda efforts.

Rep helps push civility

The co-presidents of the freshman class in Congress, including Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, signed a Commitment to Civility on Wednesday at the U.S. Captiol, pledging to act with respect and model civility in both public and public actions.

The gesture follows the shooting last week at the GOP baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, that injured five, including Oakland County native Matt Mika and Republican Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

The statement was written by Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, and says the country faces increasing divisions “fueled too often by the vitriol in our politics and public discourse.”

It lays out each member’s agreement to work to restore collegiality, trust and civility to the U.S. House, as well as encouraging productive dialogue and working to build consensus and the public’s trust in the government.

“We believe that a leader can be cooperative and conciliatory without compromising his or her core principles, and we will remember that our political rivals in Congress are not our enemies – but rather our colleagues and fellow Americans,” the commitment reads.

The other co-presidents of the freshman class include U.S. Reps. Nannette Diaz Barragan, D-California; Val Demings, D-Florida; and Rep. Donald McEachin, D-Virginia.

Legislative maverick

The Michigan congressional delegation has a maverick Republican dissenter in Rep. Justin Amash, the Grand Rapids area Republican who frequently breaks with his party on legislative votes.

The Michigan Capitol’s Democratic equivalent seems to be state Rep. Rose Mary Robinson of Detroit, who showed her independence by casting the sole dissenting vote Tuesday against legislation that legalize the sale and ownership of pocket knives.

Michigan would join 43 other states that allow some form of switchblade to be owned. People who violated the state’s ban can be punished with up to a year in prison or a $300 fine.

Robinson argued the switchblades are just too dangerous when asked why she was the sole dissenter on a bill that received 106 “yes” votes.

“What they’ve done is cause more confusion” by legalizing but not other illegal knives,” she said. “Why this? I think it’s inherently dangerous. You can be sliced and gutted, as we say.”

Senate delays summer break

This week was supposed to mark the final legislative work days before lawmakers departed Lansing on their summer break.

The Michigan House finished its business early Wednesday morning, while the Senate is set to work through Thursday.

But Senate leaders said Wednesday that members of the upper chamber will need to return to Lansing for one day next week to pass bills from the House that must wait due to a technical five-day rule, according to the Associated Press.

Contributors: Melissa Nann Burke and Michael Gerstein

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